Somali Democratic Republic

Location: Horn of Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia
Capital: Mogadishu
Area: 637,657 sq km (241,201 sq miles)
Coastline: 3,025 km
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Surud Cad (Surud Ad) 2,407 m (7,927 ft.)
Administrative Divisions: 18 Regions:
Awdal, Bakool, Banaadir, Bari, Bay, Galguduud, Gedo, Hiiraan, Jubbada Dhexe, Jubbada Hoose, Mudug, Nugaal, Sanaag, Shabeellaha Dhexe, Shabeellaha Hoose, Sool, Togdheer and Woqooyi Galbeed
Official language: Somali
Other: Arabic, Italian, English
Religion: Islam
Population: 7,253,137 (2000)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44%
                         15-64 years: 53%
                         65 years and over: 3%
Life expectancy: 45 years (men), 47 years (women)
Literacy: total population 24% (36% male, 14% female)
Internet domain: so
Currency: Somali Shilling


Somalia is a coastal country on the Horn of Africa, stretching from the Equator to the Red Sea. It is bounded on the north by the Gulf of Aden and Djibouti, on the west by Ethiopia and Kenya, and on the east and the south by the Indian Ocean. It has an area of 637,657 square km and a population of 7,253,137. Its capital, Mogadishu, is on the coast not far north of the Equator.


The weather is hot throughout the year, except at the higher elevations. Rainfall is sparse, and most of Somalia has a semiarid-to- arid environment. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 30C to 42C (86F -102F).


Along the Gulf of Aden is the Guban (scrubland) plain, a semi-arid, hot and humid area with low rainfall. Heading south the plain rises to high cliffs which form the east-west ranges of the Kar Kaar Mountains. The highest elevation is at Surud Cad, 2,407 m. There are some small forests of trees that produce the resins frankincense and myrrh. These trees are indigenous to Somalia and are found on the northern mountain slopes.

The mountains descend southward to an elevated broad plateau of the Ogo highlands and the Sool Hawd regions. A major feature of this region is the long and broad Nugaaleed Valley, with its network of wadis (intermittent seasonal watercourses). Farther south Somalia consists of flat plains. Trees in the south include eucalyptus, mahogany, and euphoria. In the extreme south of the coastal plain in the Bay of Buur Gaabo along the Indian Ocean are extensive mangrove forests. Sandy beaches are widespread along the coast, and are interspersed by rocky cliffs and headlands.

There are small islands offshore: these include Pemba; Chiamboni, Famau Uali, Ciandara, Hagi Bulle, Dorcasi and Ciula.


Two permanent rivers rise in Ethiopia and flow across southern Somalia to the Indian Ocean. The Jubba River enters the Indian Ocean at Kisimayu. Although the Shabeelle River at one time also reached the sea near Merca, its course is thought to have changed in prehistoric times. It now turns southwest as it approaches Mogadishu and parallels the coast for more than eighty-five kilometers. At Baraawe south of Mogadishu, the Shabeelle disperses into swampy areas and finally dries up and disappears into the sand east of Jilib, not far from the Jubba River.

Along the Indian Ocean between Mogadishu to Kisimayu lies a stretch of sand dunes. The dunes were covered with scrub and grasses, but overgrazing has resulted in the destruction of the vegetation, causing the dunes to move inland. Beginning in the early 1970s, efforts were made to stabilize these dunes by replanting.

Mangrove forests are found at points along the coast, particularly from Kisimayu to near the Kenyan border. Other mangrove forests are located near Mogadishu and at a number of places along the northeastern and northern coasts.

There are two Proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPA): the first is Lac Badana National Park in the extreme southeastern corner of the coutry. It is important for coral reefs, marine turtles and other marine resources, although it is not yet well investigated.

The second proposed MPA is Jaziira Maydh in the Gulf of Aden, adjacent to Daalo Forest Reserve. Considering its close proximity to the Red Sea the marine habitats are likely to be biologically and geologically important.There are major seabird colonies in this area.

Wildlife species in Somalia include lion, elephant, hyena, fox, leopard, giraffe, zebra, warthog, ostriches, antelope and many poisonous snakes. Green and Hawksbill turtles nest on the southern parts of the coastline.

The greatest threat to vegetation and biodiversity in Somalia is the uncontrolled production of charcoal. The Acacia tree is the favored choice: it is an excellent hardwood, used as firewood and charcoal domestically, and sold a good to the Arabian Gulf region. Destruction of acacia woodland is adversely affecting the ecosystem of the Somali highlands.


The Somali people are divided into clans, which in turn are divided into subclans. Communities are united into a larger social and political unit called a rer, each with its own elected leader.


Of the 7 million Somalis living in Somalia, 80% belongs to the Somali or Samaale group in the north; the remaining 20% belongs to the Sab, or southern Somali. All believe they are descended from the same male ancestor and his two sons, Somali and Sab. This close relationship brought both strong alliances and bloody feuds. Somali groups descended from the Samaal consist of four pastoral nomadic clan-families (Dir, Daarood, Isaaq, and Hawiye). The Sab consist of two agricultural clan-families (Digil and Rahanwayn).

Most Somalis are pastoral nomads. Somali seasonal calendar is divided into four seasons, two rainy (gu and day) and two dry (jiilaal and hagaa). The gu rains (April- June) produce lush vegetation and for a brief period turn scrubland into a flowering garden. During the gu season, the nomads scatter with their herds throughout the Hawd, where they remain as long as animal forage and water last. At this time of plenty the nomads assemble and engage in poetic exchanges or in a new cycle of hereditary feuds. They offer sacrifices to Allah and to the founding clan ancestors, whose blessings they seek. Social functions occur: marriages are arranged, outstanding disputes are settled, and a person's age is calculated in terms of the number of gus he or she has lived. The gu season is followed by the hagaa drought (July-September) and the hagaa by the day rains (October-November), then the jiilaal (December-March), which is the harshest season.


Primary education is compulsory and free. Some private schools continued to function after the 1991 government overthrow. The Somalia National University was founded in 1970 in Mogadishu. It has been closed indefinitely due to damage from wars. Mogadishu University is a non-government university established in 1993.

In 1973 Somalia officially adopted the Latin alphabet. Until then Somali had been an unwritten language.

Cultural life

Somali theater has been well established since the 1950s. Playwright Xasan Sheikh Muumin wrote “Shabeelnagood” (Leopard among the Women), the story of a heartless trickster who marries a naïve young woman. First performed in Mogadishu in 1968, the play was serialized on radio. An English translation was published in 1974. Nuruddin Farah is a Somali novelist who writes in English and has achieved international recognition. Cultural institutions are the National Museum, the National Theatre, the Historical Museum, and the Somali Academy of Sciences and Arts, all located in Mogadishu.

Somali music uses a traditional instrument called the kaban, very much like a guitar but with four strings. It is often played along with the oud (Arabian lute). Kaban is also a term for classic Somali jazz, a style alternating between soothing, soft melodies and powerful rhythms and lyrics. Somali kaban and oud musicians include Hudaydi Abdi Badil, Cabdicasis , and the late Omar Dhule,

Somalia’s cultural institutions are all located in Mogadishu: the Somali National Museum, founded in 1934; the National Library founded in 1970; the Somali National Theater. All have suffered due to the war.


Islam spread to Somalia though Arabs who established trading centers along the coast between the seventh and the twelfth centuries. Beginning in the twelfth century the coastal towns were independent Muslim sultanates, the interior was controlled by Ethiopian Christians. Gradually Islam spread to the interior of the country. Most Somalis belong to the Shafi’ sect of Sunni Islam. Other represented sects are the Qadiriyah, the Ahmadiya and the Salihiya.


Less than 1% of the population is Christian.


Somalia’s agriculture economy is based on the rearing of livestock, sheep, goats, camels and cattle. Only a small percent of Somali land is arable. The main export commodities are livestock and bananas. Less important exports are fish, hides, frankincense and myrrh.

Beginning in 1969 and till the 1980s the government of Siad Barre experimented with “Scientific Socialism” in which all banks, oil companies, and industries were nationalized. That experiment, coupled with civil war has severely weakened the economy.


There are medium-sized irrigated plantations along the Jubba and Sheebelle rivers; bananas, sugarcane, rice, cotton, vegetables, mangoes and papayas are the major crops.

Fishing ports did not develop in Somalia due to a local aversion to eating fish, and the absence of any sizable inland market. Some of the towns south of Mogadishu have been sites of non-Somali fishing communities. The fisheries' potential, the need to expand food production, the need to increase employment opportunities for nomads ruined by droughts, resulted in government incentives to settle nomad families in fishing cooperatives; about 15,000 nomads have settled in such cooperatives since 1975.

The better quality fish and shellfish are processed for export.

Natural Resources

Somalia’s mineral resources are tin, uranium, iron ore, phosphate and coal, oil and natural gas, all in limited quantities. Sea salt is collected along the coastal regions. In the south central region are the world’s largest known reserves of the clay mineral sepiolite, or meerschaum.

Somalia, like the rest of the Horn of Africa, is a prime location for harnessing wind energy for electricity generation. In 1988, a wind energy project using four turbines embedded into the Mogadishu electrical grid produced 699,420 kilowatt hours of energy. In early 1992, the energy produced rose to 257 million kilowatt hours. More wind energy projects were planned for rural areas, but due to the ongoing conflict, these have no been built.


The northern and eastern coasts of Somalia have been open to the outside world from early time as a place for trade between Arabia and Ethiopia. Somalis were among the earliest converts to Islam through their contact with Arab traders in the 7th century. The ports of Kisimayu and Mogadishu in the southwest to Berbera and Saylac in the far northwest were founded between the eighth to the tenth centuries A.D. by Arab and Persian traders. The port cities became centers of commerce with the interior, a function they continued to perform in the 1990s.

In the 16th century the northern regions were under Turkish suzerainty, and the south was controlled by the sultan of Zanzibar. By the middle of the 19th century, Britain, Italy and France were competing for the Somali peninsula.
Egypt and Ethiopia were also involved.

In 1887, a British protectorate was proclaimed in northern Somalia. In 1889 Italy acquired two protectorates in the northeastern corner of the Somali coast, and in 19892 the southern part of the coast was sublet form the Sultan of Zanzibar to an Italian company and became the headquarters of Italian Somaliland.

In 1936, Mussolini occupied Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. In 1949, the new Somalia came under the United Nations trusteeship to be administered by Italy for 10 years. The country in its present borders was formed when British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland were united in one territory in July 1960. Abdallah Osman was the first president of the republic.

In 1969, the military led by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre seized power and introduced “Scientific Socialism”. In 1971 Barre announced his party’s intention to establish a one-party state. The
Constitution of 1979 gave all the powers to the President and his supporters, leaving none to the Peoples’ Assembly. In 1990, the United Somali Congress and the Somali National Movement formed a coalition in order to overthrow Siad Barre. However, a split occurred in the United Somali Congress between the group of Ali Mahdi and the group of Mohamed Farah Aidid. Factional fighting and anarchy followed in the years since.


Somalia’s development has been hindered by territorial claims on Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, and a troubled relationship with Ethiopia. In May of 1991, northern clans unilaterally declared an independent Republic of Somaliland. Although the territory is not recognized by any government, it has been relatively stable, aided by the economic infrastructure left behind by British, Russian, and American military assistance programs. The south remains fragmented. A Transitional National Government (TNG) was created in October 2000 with the three-year mandate of creating a permanent national Somali government. The TNG has been unable to reunite the country. Peace talks began in late-2002 and are ongoing. Somaliland has refused to participate in these talks saying that while it would welcome peace in former Italian Somalia.


In early January 2007 Ethiopian forces invaded southern Somalia, while Somaliland secessionists provided port facilities in Berbera to landlocked Ethiopia. Kenya tries to prevent the clan and militia fighting in Somalia from spreading south across the border, which has long been open to nomadic pastoralists Various attempts continue to be made to end the conflict and form a central government.

Mogadishu, Mirka


Nature reserves:


Somalia’s Constitution, Universities, Tourism


References: coast 2000.pdf;